The Golden Bowl Summary
Henry James

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The Golden Bowl Summary

Henry James' novel "The Golden Bowl" tells the story of the marriage of two couples and the impact the prior relationships of these couples have on each other. The story revolves around a beautiful, but cracked, golden bowl and the secrets this bowl allows to surface. Maggie, the heroine of the book, goes into full battle mode to keep her husband, but protect others from her knowledge of an adulterous affair. As the novel ends, all Maggie's husband can see is her, proving to Maggie that her battle and the sacrifices that were made were worth her efforts.

The action of the novel begins just a few days before the wedding of Maggie Verver, daughter of a wealthy collector, and Prince Amerigo, the ancestor of defamed royalty. During a visit to Fanny Assisngham, the woman who introduced Maggie to the Prince, the Prince learns that Charlotte Stant, a former lover is back in town. As Charlotte was also a friend of Maggie's, Charlotte asks the Prince to accompany her on a shopping trip for a wedding gift. The two find themselves in a shop where a beautiful golden bowl is for sale. Although they do not buy the bowl because they suspect it is flawed, the couple makes a great impression on the shopkeeper. This shopkeeper eavesdrops as the two speak in Italian about their desire to give gifts to one another.

After Maggie is married, she is unhappy with her father being alone, so she arranges for him to meet Charlotte. The two decide to get married, as Maggie had hoped. After this marriage, however, Maggie begins to spend increasing amounts of time at her father's home with her father while Charlotte and the Prince are left attending social functions together. As they find themselves spending more and more time away from their spouses, Charlotte and the Prince restart their old relationship. As time goes by, Maggie begins to suspect there is an affair going on between Charlotte and the Prince.

Maggie receives the proof she needs of this affair when she buys the golden bowl as a birthday gift for her father. The shopkeeper who sells the bowl later comes to Maggie's house to tell her there is a flaw in the piece and to offer her a refund. As her talks to her, he recognizes the pictures of the Prince and Charlotte that Maggie has on display. He tells Maggie of the couple's behavior the day they were in his store considering the purchase of the same bowl.

After the Prince recognizes the bowl that is now in Maggie's possession and realizes she knows about their relationships, both past and present, he does nothing but wait to see what will happen. Maggie, on the same terms, waits also. In the conclusion of the novel, Maggie's father, it is believed, is still unaware of the affair between his wife and son-in-law while Charlotte is unaware that her step-daughter has discovered the adulterous affair. At Mr. Verver's suggestion, however, he and Charlotte decide to go back to the Verver's hometown in America. At the end of the novel all the Prince can see is Maggie.

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